Unloading of goods came to a halt at 16 private ghats on the bank of River Karnaphuli for around six hours on Wednesday as the workers went on a work abstention demanding the end of extortion in the name of trade union fees, and for wages for the extra duties.
Hundreds of workers went to the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CCCI) Bhaban and staged a protest march there from 10 am to 2 pm.
The agitated workers threatened that they will go for tougher movement if the issues are not solved within the next three days.
The agitated workers also handed over a memorandum to the CCCI president.
In a separate development, some miscreants attacked the workers while they were staging the demo, leaving at least 12 protesters injured.
Two of them were admitted to Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH) while others were sent to nearby hospitals, said Alauddin, an assistant sub-inspector at CMCH police outpost.
Lighter vessels loaded with sugar, stone, wheat, and lentils imported by different private and government firms that anchored at the jetties remained idle in the Sadarghat area of the port city for around five hours due to the ghat workers' protest.
The protesting workers said they have been working at 16 ghats and warehouses in the Sadarghat area with dedication, sincerity and efficiency for a long time. But the workers are now living in an extreme crisis as they are being deprived of fair wages as the ghat owners pay workers as their whims.
Bahadur, a member of the Ghat and Warehouse Workers' Sangram Parishad, told The Business Standard: "Workers have been unloading goods from lighter vessels to trucks here for a long time. But the contractors have not been paying fair wages for almost three years."
As per rule, the workers were supposed to load six tons of goods in trucks of chamber members and 11 tons in trucks of district-level businessmen. However, they were forced to load more than 22 tons of goods each truck. But the importers do not pay any wages for the extra work, he added.
He further said the ghat and warehouse workers have to payTk80 to Tk90 daily to the various organisations tantamounting to extortion. The extortion amount stands at about Tk3.20 crore in the last 4 years. But the local miscreants grabbed all the money and nothing was spent for the workers.